LOS ANGELES, Nov. 29 — Basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson was honored for his long-time effort raising awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment, receiving inaugural World AIDS Day Magic Award from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation at a ceremony held in Staples Center, Los Angeles on Sunday.
"Who would have ever thought that 20 years later, here I am and we're still trying to help people," Johnson said after receiving the award in a suite at Staples Center before the Los Angeles Lakers-Indiana Pacers game. In 1991, Johnson announced that he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.
"This disease is a deadly disease, but I think now, where we couldn't talk about it 20 years ago in open, now we can talk openly about it. We can have awards like tonight at the Staples Center. What a blessing that is."
Pointing at two positive changes since he made public he was HIV positive almost 20 years ago, Johnson said awareness of AIDS "has definitely gone up" and drugs available for people who are HIV positive have increased from one to more than 30.
An active advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention, Johnson is the founder and chairman of the nonprofit Magic Johnson Foundation, whose mission includes making donations to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
The presentation was made by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in connection with the 22nd observation of World AIDS Day which falls on Wednesday.
The legendary Los Angeles Lakers player quit the game in 1991 after he made known that he tested positive for HIV but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. He also returned in 1996 to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time. He was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, and enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
He advised people to be tested to determine if they have the virus that causes AIDS. "If you properly get tested, you can live like me for a long time. Normally, what happens is you catch it late and then the medicine can't help you," he said during an interview following the presentation.
He also asked people to educate others about the ailment.
AHF operates 71 free health care centers in 22 nations. Five are named for Johnson, including one in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, AHF President Michael Weinstein said. (PNA/Xinhua)